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Discussion Title Voting and the 2012 General Election

Voter Registration Week is Sept. 25 to Oct. 2. Fairfax County General Registrar Cameron Quinn will answer your voting questions for the upcoming General Election, including voter registration and voter ID, during the online “Ask Fairfax!” on Friday, Sept. 28 at 11 a.m.


Cameron Quinn : County voters, I look forward to answering your questions for the next hour and hope everyone makes sure to vote on election day.


Anonymous User : I registered to vote probably 15 years ago but I haven’t voted since 2004. Does my registration expire? Do I need to register again?

Cameron Quinn : Since 2004, your registration would not have expired. However, if you have moved, your registration may not be correct, and if it's not correct, you may under some circumstances not be able to vote.

PLEASE be sure before October 15 - this year's deadline - to get registered AND be sure you have a correct and updated registration address.

The easiest way to do this is to go online to the State Board of Elections website, www.sbe.virginia.gov/register. You can confirm your registration, that the system has your correct address and that all of your information is correct. You can also see where you vote and other details about your registration.

Additionally, Fairfax County now has a mobile app, currently available on iPhone, about to be available on Android, and also accesssible online without a smartphone at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/voterinfo. This will confirm whether or not you are registered, but will not allow you to correct your address.

It's a great thing to use on Election Day because you can submit your registration information and click "Driving Directions" and, from wherever you are, get directions to your polling place on your smartphone.


Anonymous User : Do you need volunteers to help with registration?

Cameron Quinn : YES. If you have time next Tuesday afternoon, we are looking for volunteers to help with Metro Day. In addition, if you are interested in helping register voters, we can provide you with information and materials so that you can make sure that your friends and neighbors are registered to vote. Call and ask for someone from our Outreach Team at 703-222-0776 for more information.

If you don't want to come in to get materials, you can go online and get voter registration applications and absentee ballot applications in English or Spanish.

The good news in Fairfax County is that almost everyone who is eligible is registered to vote. At this point, we have over 721,000 registered voters out of an estimated less than 800,000 eligible citizens of voting age. What we don't have is every registered voter registered at their correct address. Anything you can do to help us make sure these voters correct their information would be awesome.  


Dwight : I just moved and updated my address/voter registration. I've just got wind that I now have to work all day on election day and I need to vote absentee. I've never done this so I'm a little confused about what I need to do after I fill out the absentee ballot application?

Cameron Quinn : Once you've filled out your absentee ballot application, which you can get online, you can mail, fax (703-324-2205) or print out and scan the document to email to us at absenteeballot@fairfaxcounty.gov. You can email us with other questions at voting@fairfaxcounty.gov. If you do not have online capability, you can always call our office (703-222-0776) and we can mail you a form.

In addition, you can vote in person absentee if you can get to the Fairfax County Government Center (12000 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax, Va.) now. We have already started in-person absentee voting. Our hours are:

Thursdays: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Other weekdays: 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Saturdays: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (beginning Saturday, Oct. 6)

Also, starting Oct. 17, we will be doing satellite in-person absentee voting at several locations around the county. For more information on that, visit www.fairfaxcounty.gov/elections/absentee.htm.


Me : How will you handle people who's new voting card got lost in the mail or returned in error to your office but they have no other ID, like perhaps elderly people?

Stacy Patterson : Any time a voter needs a new voter card, they can call our office at 703-222-0776 and we will mail them a new one.


Julia Donahue : During the last presidential election the lines were ridiculously long and the parking lot at the school where I vote was a nightmare. Are you going to fix this problem to make it easier for people to vote?

Cameron Quinn : Regarding parking problems, finding great locations for polling places is always a challenge, particularly during presidential elections when so many people go to vote. Most of our polling places are schools, but we also use other public buildings and, if there are no appropriate buildings, we also use churchs and other private nonprofit facilities in the area (public and nonprofit buildings are state requirements). We always struggle to find places that are accessible to people with disabilities and that have great parking, and that are convenient to voters within a certain radius for a precinct. We welcome suggestions for alternative sites that would be better (but we can't change any polling places until after November 2012).

We have been working with our polling place locations this year, both to improve accessibility and to improve parking situations as best we can within legal restrictions and geographical requirements.

Regarding the question of long lines, this is always a problem during a presidential election when we have twice as many voters as any other election in four years. We encourage those who are eligible to consider voting absentee, whether in person or by mail. We also encourage those voters who have flexibility in their schedule to consider voting between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when there are many fewer voters than at the beginning and end of Election Day.
 
We also, this year, strongly encourage all voters planning to vote in person to already have reviewed the Constitutional Amendments and the Bond Referenda before they get to the polls so they know how they will be voting. Every time we have Constitutional and Bond Amendments, some voters try to read when they are inside the voting booth, and think about their response. This means they are holding up other voters who are already prepared.

To view a sample ballot, visit www.fairfaxcounty.gov/elections/upcoming.htm and scroll down to see your actual sample ballot. (Ballot information is available at the top of the page, but sample ballots are midway down and you need to click on your specific ballot option.) Both English and Spanish ballots, touch screen and optical scan ballots may be viewed online.


Becky M. : Every election I get really frustrated because I miss getting to my poll by like 10 minutes. Traffic always seems worse on election day and if it is raining, well forget it. I don’t have time to stop and vote in the morning. Can I vote at a poll closer to work?

Cameron Quinn :

No. Under Virginia law, you must vote in your polling place. This is a Virginia Constitutional requirement. There are, however, other solutions. If you can't vote in the morning, do you qualify to vote absentee? One absentee qualification that many people don't realize is that if they work and commute together for at least 11 of the 13 hours that the polls are open, they qualify to vote absentee.

For more information, visit www.fairfaxcounty.gov/elections/absentee.htm which will contain a full listing of requirements for absentee voting, as well as the times and locations for absentee voting.


Anonymous User : What can I do to stop the phone calls!? Short of moving to a non-battleground outpost like Montana, any advice?

Cameron Quinn : Move to Mississippi? ;-)

Seriously, there is nothing we can do to stop the phone calls. State law allows this. There are some Constitutional parameters because of the First Amendment. You need to talk to your state or federal legislator on this one.


mom : My son is a freshman at UVa and it's the first time he can vote. I don't think we'll be able to get him home to vote on Nov. 6 - what are his options?

Cameron Quinn : Student registration can be either at the school or at home. Legally, it is the voter's choice (mom and dad, your son gets to decide if it's Charlottesville or Fairfax). He still has time now to register in Charlottesville or to register here. He can register by mail or, if he is up here for fall break, he can come in person until Oct. 15.

If registering by mail, the application must be postmarked by the 15th. If coming in person, he must be at the office by 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 15.

If he is already registered, then he can vote absentee. We have already talked about the absentee options earlier in this chat, but as a reminder he can download an absentee ballot application and return it by mail, fax or email (as a scanned attachment) and we will mail him a ballot.

One more thing about students. Those going to school within Fairfax County are not eligible to vote absentee unless they qualify. For example, if they will be out of town that day, or if they are working and commuting for 11 of the 13 hours that the polls are open. State law has not yet considered being in school a "job," so they would need to be working and commuting. There are 17 or 18 different reasons people can qualify to vote absentee and our GMU and NVCC students should refer to the website to see if they qualify for some other reason. www.fairfaxcounty.gov/elections/absentee.htm.


Zeke : I'm confused about vote registration cards and ID. I thought these had already changed and now there's new cards? I still vote at the same place if I haven't moved but have to bring my ID too? Does it just get sent to me automatically or do I have to do something and need that new card in order to vote by a certain time?

Cameron Quinn : Because of redistricting, over the last 18 months Fairfax County residents may have received multiple voter information cards. Any card with a current address is still acceptable, however, because of redistricting your representational information may have changed. If you are unsure which Congressman you will be voting for this year, please go to the State Board of Elections website (www.sbe.virginia.gov/register) or call our office at 703-222-7776 and we can tell you what is the most current information. You can tell which is the most current voter information card by looking at the issue date. 

In addition, the State Board of Elections has just mailed every voter a new voter card. This is most likely to be the most current card, unless you have moved recently or sent us a new voter registration form. In addition, this was sent to ensure that all voters have at least one acceptable form of identification.

Virginia has had voter ID for many years. Virginia tweaked its voter ID laws this year to allow many new forms of acceptable identification. Virginia also has mailed a voter information card (or sometimes called voter registration card) for many years. You need some form of identification under Virginia law, and this voter information card is considered an acceptable form of identification. If you bring your voter card, you do not need to bring another form of identification.

Other forms of acceptable identification include such common things as drivers license; military ID; student ID from any Virginia college or university; a current utility bill or paycheck; employer issued photo ID. For other forms of acceptable ID, please visit www.sbe.virginia.gov/votinginperson.html. If you scroll down to the middle of the page, there is a link to a chart that shows dozens of acceptable forms of ID. 


Cameron Quinn : Thank you for your questions. I am sorry I wasn't able to get to all of them. I encourage you to call our office with questions at 703-222-0776 or visit us online at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/elections with additional questions. You can also email us at voting@fairfaxcounty.gov.

I will be answering more voter questions at our next online chat on November 2. In the meantime, PLEASE be sure you are registered and your address is correct before October 15 when registration closes.

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